- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Emmy-winning producer Lindsay Shookus and longtime friend Kristin O’Keeffe Merrick, a financial adviser, started Women Work Fucking Hard in 2018 to connect women across different industries. “You don’t have to be the richest person in the room or the most connected to help the woman next to you,” says Shookus, explaining that the purpose of the networking group is to provide female entrepreneurs with a variety of resources.
What began as an informal mixer of 50 friends (and a few cold-email invitees) has grown into a bicoastal adult sorority of sorts with 120 perennial attendees at their annual flagship soiree in New York and virtual salons throughout the year. They threw their first Los Angeles event in September at the West Hollywood offices of creative studio The Outset, sponsored by cannabis app Jane and local dispensary Sweet Flower. “There was a moment where everyone was like, ‘What’s the ask? What does everyone want from us here?’ ” Merrick remembers, sharing that there’s no charge for admission and that they fund everything themselves — unless a sponsor steps in. “It was just like, ‘Here are some drugs and tequila. All you have to do is be nice and see who needs something from you.’ ”
The group’s guest lists have included Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live castmember Ego Nwodim and food writer Alison Roman in New York and Jimmy Kimmel Live! co-head writer Molly McNearney in Los Angeles. Scoring an invite mostly comes down to knowing Shookus, Merrick or someone in their network (though their website, womenworkfuckinghard.com, does have a contact form) — but they hope to soon broaden the scope of their community. “We’re all lucky to be in the room, so let’s help someone else who is not in the room,” says Shookus, an SNL alum who recently left the show after 20 years. She adds that events have benefited abortion-rights organizations and nonprofits like Bottomless Closet, which helps disadvantaged women enter the workforce.
Shookus and Merrick — who met 24 years ago during freshman orientation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — embrace a level of spontaneity when it comes to their selfless side hustle. “If we want to help somebody get a job or raise capital — I love the freedom of being able to say, ‘Let’s do it,’ ” says Merrick, a CNBC columnist, money expert on Today and adviser with O’Keeffe Financial Partners. “It started as, ‘Let’s get our cool chick friends together and have a party,’ but it’s grown to be purposeful.”
Shookus shares that the two have events planned in New York and Los Angeles next year with the goal of adding two or three new cities in 2023. “We just did a potential investor lunch for a woman named Kristen Carbone, who has this [post-breast cancer wearables] company called Brilliantly Warm,” says Shookus. “We were like, ‘We want to throw a breakfast and a lunch to help her raise money,’ because with venture capital, it goes to 2 percent of female-founded companies. That night, we threw a party for Dahlia Lithwick [and her book Lady Justice]. We’re always looking for new things that make us feel passionate and for people who we think deserve more access.”
This story first appeared in the Dec. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day